Before you give birth, one of the decisions you'll need to make is how to feed your newborn. Each approach (breastfeeding and formula) has its own pros and cons. Breastfeeding is defined as the act of feeding an infant or a young child from a mother's breast rather than using formula.
Julie Rischar, one of All About Women's certified nurse midwives and an advanced registered nurse practitioner, says, "Breast milk is going to provide support and perfect nutrition as baby continues to grow." She recommends new moms educate themselves beforehand. "Although breastfeeding is natural, it may not come naturally to all moms and babies."
According to Save the Children (an independent charity for children in need around the world), "experts recommend that children be breastfed within one hour of birth, exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months, and then breastfed until age 2 with age-appropriate, nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods".
The World Health Organization (WHO) defines 'exclusively breastfed' as giving no other food or drink – not even water – except breast milk. In addition, the WHO recommends that breastfeeding be done on demand as the child feels hungry.
Most physicians and midwives strongly recommend breastfeeding for a variety of reasons. Some of the benefits for both mom and child include:
Benefits Associated with Breastfeeding (Mom)
Benefits Associated with Breastfeeding (Child)
As with anything else we can do to our bodies, there are risks associated with not breastfeeding. Most experts, including the WHO and Save the Children, agree that babies who are fed formula and stop breastfeeding early have higher risk of:
Although breastfeeding is quite common, there are several things about the practice that many new mothers don't know about. Between the joy of parenthood and the hectic pace of settling in, it can be easy to forget about things your body is going through. Below are 5 of the most common things – some good, some bad– new mothers don't think about when breastfeeding.
A nursing mother gets flooded with the hormone oxytocin (which is also the chemical released when a person falls in love). Oxytocin helps breast milk move to the front of the breasts. Hormones also combine to make a nursing mother drowsy while feeding – comparable to the sleepiness felt after eating a big meal. In addition, mothers can also experience negative hormonal effects including:
Since breast milk is a high-fat, high-caloric food, the act of breastfeeding can help shed pounds. However, this isn't true for all new mothers. Some find that their metabolism slows to a crawl during breastfeeding. An informal poll on the popular childbirth advice website BabyCenter found that roughly 60% of women felt that breastfeeding helped them lose weight after pregnancy.
During early postpartum weeks, new mothers experience breast leaking. This occurs for different reasons, including:
Many women find that one of their breasts will produce more than the other, thus resulting in their breasts being lopsided. One cause is the difference in milk ducts in each of the breasts. New moms can also cause this condition by feeding their baby from one side more than the other, which will increase production in that breast.
A mother's breast milk contains the perfect balance of electrolytes, fats and nutrients for baby at the particular stage of life, as well as many necessary nutrients for building their immune system. In addition, breast milk changes throughout the day. For example, breast milk contains more sedating properties in the evening to help your baby sleep. Moreover, breast milk changes as the baby grows to meet their changing nutritional needs.
There are numerous reason a woman would choose not to breastfeed, including:
While breastfeeding is typically the best option for feeding babies, there are some instances when a mother should not breastfeed. For more information, please read our article When Breast Isn't Best today.
"It's a decision for mom and baby," Julie says. "Take a breastfeeding class and find a lactation consultant in your area to learn all you can during your pregnancy."
And if you're pregnant or a new mom, let us first say congratulations! If you need assistance with breastfeeding or any other part of the post-partum experience, we invite you to schedule an appointment with one of All About Women's exceptional midwives in either Gainesville or Lake City.